Premium

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, Super Bowl halftime show review: who says pole dancing and politics don't mix? 

4
Jennifer Lopez on stage at the 2020 Super Bowl
Jennifer Lopez on stage at the 2020 Super Bowl

Super Bowl halftime is all about the giddy, gaudy spectacle and, as brain-blitzing overload, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s performance did not disappoint. The duo were creating history as the first female artists to co-headline the slot. In an election year , the fact that two women of Latin heritage were together on stage added to the sense of occasion. As did J-Lo’s pole dance and the bit where Shakira pretended to be chugging out the riff to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. 

The show is obviously there not to be enjoyed but to be blown away by. Theoretically it’s a quick music interlude as the two teams catch their breaths. But actually it’s all about fireworks-fuelled pageantry, which is a relief when, as was the case last year, the music is courtesy of Maroon 5. 

Politics had already reared its head at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami with Jay-Z and Beyoncé declining to stand for the US national anthem. Now, in a 17 minute sequence produced by the rapper’s Roc Nation entertainment agency, there were further pointed allusions to the schisms running through America. 

This was powerfully demonstrated as Lopez’s 11 year old daughter Emme belted out the chorus to Born in The US. She was surrounded by child performers in glowing cages,a reference to the imprisonment at America’s southern border of underage migrants.

Shakira during the Super Bowl halftime show Credit: getty

As all that was happening, Lopez strutted around in a cape adorned with flag of Puerto Rico (from whence her parents hail). The flourishes displayed a firm grasp of political theatrics – and cut much deeper than the Bono/ Chris Martin platitudes standard at these events. 

They also contributed some much-needed oomph just as it was beginning to seem Lopez had been overshadowed by Shakira. Kicking off the half-time entertainment, the Colombian superstar had brought something for everyone. As per contractual obligation, she waggled popular music’s most famous exposed midriff. 

She also cavorted with a length of rope (baffling but not unimpressive) and executed a very, very careful stage-dive which involved several security guards hefting her about shoulder-high as fans strained for selfies. And she squeezed in her biggest hit, Whenever, Wherever, which, as every great pop song really should, features a scorching pan-pipe solo. 

Your move J-Lo. Lopez, to her credit, pulled out every stop. She started atop an Empire State Building type edifice and then executed a pole dance, presumably as a wink her recent, Oscar-snubbed movie Hustlers (about an upwardly-mobile pole-dancer). All of this unfolded atop a giant circular video screen which at one point transformed into a digital waterfall. The rational part of your brain feared Lopez was about to tumble into the water. 

Her daughter was wheeled out for bonus heart-melting impact and then Shakira was back… playing the drums? Half-time finished with the two artists duetting on Waka Waka (This Time For Africa), Shakira’s 2010 World Cup theme song. 

Mind-blowing, absurd and with a sprinkling of politics, Lopez and Shakira’ s performance captured the spirit of the Super Bowl half-time. Only America could serve up something as over-the top. But there was no denying its neon-drenched majesty or the deeply-felt emotions bound up with the bombast.